I used to have really painful social anxiety. When I was in high school and college I would find myself consumed by certainty that I had said the wrong thing. I remember the feeling well: my insides seizing up and my gaze drifting down. Some of the trouble with social anxiety is that it has a self-perpetuating component. If you are gripped by worry and uneasy about making eye contact, it's easier to miss cues or to lag a beat behind the conversation.
These days I am usually much more relaxed about conversations with people I don't know well. You know, weirdly, as I am typing this, I am thinking that I'm more likely to have social anxiety moments after I've been talking to old friends-- as if the presence of someone who knew me when I struggled more with social anxiety somehow zombie-fies a part of me that has mostly been laid to rest.
I spent most of the past 24 hours with one of my college roommates. We met up last night at dinnertime and ran a 10K together this morning, and she caught the last train out of Gladlyville this evening. It was great to see her. And yet now that she is gone I am reflecting on our conversations with a self-critical eye. Here's an even weirder part: the thing I am feeling most uncomfortable about was one in which I was talking about ways to avoid a person who causes me musical anxiety. That's like a zombie ouroboros of avoidable anxiety right there, friends: two things I do not really need to worry about, chasing their tails inside my weary brain.
True confession: sometimes I remember things I said thirty years ago and flinch. There must be some kind of statute of limitations for flinching at dorky comments uttered by one's teenage self. If there is such a statute lodged inside my brain, it allows for more than thirty years of flinching. Alas. Let it go, self. Teenagers say dorky things; it's okay.
It seems to me that many bloggers cop to social anxiety -- more than you might encounter in a random sample. Does it seem that way to you too? Is it because blogging lets us take our time over the things we might want to say? Are we pale and nerdy sorts, communing with our laptop screens because face-to-face conversations are too unpredictable? I suppose it's a blessing that my own social anxiety is so much diminished from the orange-alert level that used to feel normal. I'm still looking for tricks that might help me respond effectively to the residue.